Conversations about culture

 Repression just got a little harder.  Perhaps, it got a lot harder.
In the wake of the Tunisian unrest, the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak is on the verge of collapsing after thirty-years of almost unchallenged power.  Democratic activists in both countries used Twitter, cell phones and the Internet to organize “flash mob” protests.  They were soon joined by working class Egyptians.  The Mubarak took the extraordinary step of shutting down the Internet and cell phone networks for the entire country.
Too late.

There are many well done shows on TV (Madmen comes to mind) which I do not watch.  A show has to have something more to get me to tune in.  For six season, Lost had that.  I was completely blown away by the first 2 season.

This show introduced me to Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher who radically changed the world.  I am embarrassed to say I was unfamiliar with him, until the makers of Lost decided to use Easter Eggs to get people to google Philosophers, great classic and contemporary literature, and other cultural wonders.  This show had me online translating hieroglyphics.  It had me reading about ancient myths.  For those things, I give them my heartiest ovation.

The highlights of this decade have been too few and too far between. The lowlights, on the other hand...


The singular, headline event of the decade can be traced back to the fabulous fifties and our cold-war efforts to keep the Commies away from the Persian gulf.  Overthrowing the first democratic government in the Muslim world seemed so easy (and more importantly, so cheap) that the temptation to do it again would be too great.  There followed a pattern of supporting short term economic and global political goals at the expense of the human and civil rights of Muslims.  Sadly, America became a force for evil in that part of the world.  Even after the Soviet threat to the region was on the wane and then gone, we continued to support the most repressive governments in the world in a short-sighted effort to keep the magic stuff flowing. 

2002 was the year the Raiders returned to the Superbowl.  It was bad luck and perhaps a sign of things to come that the coach on the other side of the field was the man who had put together the team.  Jon Gruden brought Tampa Bay its only Superbowl title after bolting the Raiders the previous year.  Even without Gruden, the team had been good enough to get that far.  Since then, not so much.

Ah to be 23, the most accomplished athlete in the world and a multimillionaire.  God forbid, you go out and have a good time.  Michael Wilbon leads the chorus of boos and criticism of Michael Phelps' party night at USC.  He wants his feet "held to the fire."  He fairly cites Phelps' 2004 DUI.  That is worthy of opprobrium.  What makes something morally wrong is the harm (or risk of harm) to others.  Smoking weed doesn't make the cut.  Even if you do think that breaking the marijuana laws of South Carolina rises to the level of drinking and driving, One misdemeanor every four years does not a bad citizen--nor bad corporate spokes/role model--make. 

Since YouTube was her downfall, it was only appropriate that Kari Ferrell, the "Hipster Grifter" appeared at her extradition hearing via closed-circuit TV.  It's standard procedure for the waiver hearings to be conducted without bringing the prisoner all the way to the CJC from State road.  Ferrell has taken grifting far.  She started out in her hometown of Salt Lake and managed to become one of their "most wanted."  She then managed to turn herself into a quasi-celebrity while stealing cellphones and duping hiptards from Prospect Heights to Park Slope.  And she was snared as only a hipster grifter could be.  A local musician who had been in contact with her lured her onto a Chinatown bus with a promise of a free ride to Portland.  When she arrived, officers from the 6th District were waiting.  She has since been held at the House of Detention here in Phi

With the new year's release of The Road and the latest installment of The Terminator Saga (Terminator Salvation--finally we get to the good stuff), the all-seeing eye of Joe Hubris has been drawn to this topic.  The former is an adaptation of Cormack McCarthy's devastating novel.  The later, starring Christian Bale, carries the promise of the original Terminator's Man vs. Machine war of the future.  It all raises the question: what is the greatest post-apocalypse film ever made?

The first nomination: On the Beach (1959, director/producer: Stanley Kramer; starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins)

Pro basketball fans from Astoria to Zigzag can take heart: the Blazers are back.  For those unfamiliar, here is a brief history of the team.  Born of fire and steel in 1970, the Portland Trailblazers have seen their share of ups and downs over the years.  The original team of Geoff Petrie, Rick Adelman and Sidney Wicks gave way to the Walton/Lucas Championship year.  Then came the Billy Ray Bates years, then the Sam Bowie draft. 

Resident linguist, Geoff Nunburg, selected his 2008 Word of the Year and it's all coming up Joe!

UPDATE: Sadly, Miriam Webster selected "Bailout" as their Word of the Year.  Bailout?  Really?  I'm sure Geoff would agree that it lacks a certain flair.  bailout...

Comments to Joe Hubris.

October 2008:

1. Croatia continues to hold its 6th place despite a loss to England and a two draws.

2. Lithuania (with under 4 million people) defeated Austria and Romania by a combined 6 to 0 to move up 17 spots in the standings to 37th overall.

August 2008:

1. Croatia.  Croatia, with their population of 4 million, is currently ranked 6th in the world by FIFA.  They are coming off a quarterfinal loss to Turkey, after posting wins against Germany, Poland and Austria, three counties with a combined population of almost 130,000--almost 33 times as large as the land of the Vatreni (the Firey).  They are by far, the greatest David in the August rankings.

2. Scotland.  Currently ranked 16th in the world, Scotland has one-seventh the poplation of England, currently ranked 14th.